When heading off as a first time backpacker last year, I packed a bunch of things I really didn’t need; mini hair straighteners, pretty evening dresses and far too many bulky books. As you can imagine, none of these items made it far into the trip; I ended up ditching my non-essentials when I came to realise I didn’t need them and they were taking up valuable room in my backpack. The books got left in Thailand, the unused straighteners given away in Vietnam and as for my dresses I practically left a bread crumb trail of them across South East Asia.
I may have completely overestimated what a backpacker needs, but there were some key items I packed that became invaluable to me. Here are my Top 5 backpacking essentials.
A travel wallet As much as I’d love to say I just packed a bag full of bikinis and boarded a plane, I did not. There was travel insurance documents to sort out, emergency cards, extra passport photos, not to mention my actual passport. I didn’t want all these extremely important documents and essentials just loose in my bag willy nilly. I wanted them all together, safe and secure. I ordered a travel wallet off Amazon, big enough to hold all my travel documents, but small enough to fit in my hand luggage (and girly enough to be able to recognise it should I lose it). It had plenty of pockets, including a specific passport pocket so that I would never lose my passport. You can buy this Bon Voyage wallet by Disaster Designs here. This wallet also held my plane tickets, foreign currency, travel insurance, my medical booklet, emergency bank cards, even coins. This chunky travel wallet ALWAYS remained in my hand luggage when I was travelling, NEVER in my rucksack. If I was checked into a hostel, guest house or hotel, I would keep it safe by locking it in a locker, safety box, or padlocking it in my rucksack, which brings me to my next backpacking essential…
Padlocks I was so glad I took padlocks with me, four to be precise. Whilst some hostels will give you a locker with a key, most won’t. Most places I stayed at offered a locker, but no padlock, you had to provide your own, and some didn’t offer anything at all. I very rarely heard of valuables being stolen by other backpackers, but still, I never left my stuff out for anyone. If there was no lockers available, I padlocked up every single pocket and zipper on my bags. So if you don’t have your own padlocks you run the risk of having your valuables stolen, just saying. I also advise using the padlocks when in transit. Basically the only time my bag wasn’t locked up, was if I was getting something out of it. Padlocks are key (pun totally intended there) I advise getting combination padlocks, like these.
A Bum-Bag My Parents bought this for me before I went away, obviously wanting me to be safe. I wasn’t very excited about this, it’s not exactly pretty and it didn’t look cool, but my goodness it became a life saver! It’s not supposed to be a Fashion accessory, but a way to hide your money and valuables from thieves. My boyfriend wore it most of the time because he hid it better under his T-shirt or tucked it in his shorts (I can’t exactly hide it well when wearing a crop top). It served it’s purpose on several occasions, in both Thailand and Vietnam locals often approach you when your drunk pretending to hug you or dance with you, when in actual fact they are robbing you. However, both times this happened to us, they seemed very disappointed when they realised we had no money on us (even though we actually did!)
A Notebook Before I left for my trip, a good friend of mine gave me this notebook as a ‘Bon Voyage’ gift. It was actually the friend who had initially inspired me to go travelling, so I was intent on taking her advice when she told me to carry it around with me. As handy as my iPhone was (and it was very handy) you can’t always rely on technology. Phones run out of battery, and they run the risk of going missing; having a notebook on me meant always being able to jot down a new friends details, and I was able to keep a brief diary of what I had been upto, writing down names of places I knew I would otherwise forget. Plus it’s great to have a pen and paper to hand for those rainy hammock days, or for the long bus journeys when you feel like beating your chum at Noughts and Crosses (on that note a deck of cards is a wise thing to pack to, I did and it not only became a great way to keep us entertained but a brilliant ice breaker when at a new place).
A Camera Such an obvious one that I’m sure every backpacker or vacationer packs anyway, hence why it makes it onto my essentials. It doesn’t need to be a fancy camera but a camera nonetheless. And I advise you take it everywhere with you as you never know what your going to see! For me it was all about making memories and snapping up as much as I could as I may never get the opportunity again. I had three cameras on my trip, my Nikon L310 which was a little bulky but it takes great pictures, my smaller pocket sized Digital, and my iPhone which took most of my food pics – typical. Next time I plan to take a waterproof camera, as well as as some disposables for the nights out. But whether you’ve three cameras, two or one, it doesn’t matter, just make sure you get snappy happy.
Do you have any travel essentials that you can’t holiday without??